Is Cream Cheese Good For Bulking? Bodybuilding Coach Answers

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We’ve written about the benefits of eating cheese on a high-protein diet for bodybuilding. Although cream cheese is classified as “cheese,” don’t immediately assume it’s ideal for muscle gain or fat loss. Here is everything you need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • Cream cheese is an energy-dense food (50 calories per tablespoon) that can easily add calories to your total and make creating the necessary surplus for muscle gain easier.
  • Cream cheese provides primarily fat (with less than a gram of carbs and protein per serving). This means it digests fairly slowly and doesn’t provide much usable energy, which means it isn’t the best food to eat before training.
  • To incorporate cream cheese into your bodybuilding diet, measure each serving carefully, opt for a reduced-fat kind (but be careful of extra carbs), eat it alongside a protein (e.g., chicken), and mix it with Greek yogurt and spices for a creamy dip.

Cream Cheese: Overview

Nutritional content of one tablespoon of cream cheese 14.5 grams


Cream cheese is an energy-dense food with a single tablespoon providing 50 calories.

So, while it might be tempting to put as much cream cheese as you want on top of your bagel, it’s best to control the portion size.

Given the energy density, you can easily consume hundreds of calories and might gain unwanted weight.

With that said, you can still enjoy cream cheese, especially during a bulking phase, as it can make achieving the necessary calorie surplus for muscle gain easier.


Cream cheese provides mostly fats, with almost no protein or carbs (less than one gram per serving). 

Most of the fats are saturated, which is another reason to limit your cream cheese intake. A higher saturated fat intake is linked to health issues like elevated cholesterol.

A bodybuilder still needs some fat added to their diets, though, since it helps produce hormones and provides a small amount of energy for the body.  

Therefore, choosing unsaturated fats (from vegetables like nuts, seeds, or olive oil) is a better option.

Since cream cheese lacks protein and carbs, you must add both macronutrients to balance the dish. Add a bagel (carb) with some fish (protein) to have a more balanced plate. 


Cream cheese is not a very nutrient-dense food. Since it is highly processed, it lacks many nutrients a bodybuilder needs to stay in optimal condition. 

However, it does have some traces of certain nutrients (per tablespoon):

Want to learn more about high-protein foods? Check out our article Bulking Foods For Bodybuilding.

Pros Of Eating Cream Cheese

pros vs cons of eating cream cheese for bodybuilding

1. Helps You Add Calories

The main reason for adding cream cheese to your bodybuilder diet is that it helps you eat more calories. 

It is a food that doesn’t provide much volume, so it won’t take up too much space in your stomach.

This is essential for a bodybuilder in a bulking phase, especially if you struggle to eat enough and steadily gain weight.

2. Supports Immune Function

Given vitamin A’s importance in immunity and that a single tablespoon of cream cheese covers 5% of your daily needs, this food can support your body’s defense system.

A stronger immune system means you are more likely to spend time at the gym than recovering at home.

Additionally, it has a small number of carotenoid antioxidants (primarily lutein and zeaxanthin) that help reduce inflammation in the body and may also support your immune system. 

3. Potential Probiotic Effects

Cream cheese has a small number of probiotics, which are healthy bacteria you can supplement through your food to improve gut health.

Increasing your probiotic intake helps you process foods better, making you less likely to have stomach problems that prevent you from going to the gym.

For example, Lactobacillus species found in cream cheese can strengthen your immune system and protect against infections.

Here’s a quick tip from Sharon O’Brien, MS:

“Since heating kills probiotics, look for cream cheese with a “live and active cultures” label, which means that the product boasts living probiotics.”

Cons of Eating Cream

1. Low in Protein

Since cream cheese is mostly fat, it doesn’t have the protein a bodybuilder needs. 

For reference, you should aim for at least 0.7-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight to optimize muscle recovery and growth.

Add a protein source (e.g., meat, fish, or eggs) to balance the macronutrients when you have cream cheese. 

2. High in Saturated Fats

Cream cheese is mostly saturated fats, which is not ideal because a high intake is linked to cardiovascular issues.

One tablespoon of cream cheese has 5 grams of fats, 2.9 grams of which are saturated.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting no more than 5-6% of total calories from saturated fats. 

So, if you consume 3,000 calories on a bulk, that would be 16.6 to 20 grams daily, the equivalent of a small, 3-ounce package of cream cheese.

Additionally, saturated fats are harder to digest, which means you could have an upset stomach if you consume too much.

Sometimes, eating too much cheese can make you feel sleepy. Find out why.

Can You Eat Cream Cheese Before Workouts?

Cream cheese is not the best food to add before a workout because it’s not the most easily digestible and isn’t a quick energy source.

For that, you need simple carbs (e.g., fruits and rice cakes), not high-fat foods like cream cheese. According to research, you should aim for a gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight.

So, a 70-kilo (154-lb) bodybuilder should aim for a 70-gram serving of carbs approximately two hours before training.

Fats take longer to digest, which means that you don’t get energy very fast. 

If you eat cream cheese, do so  2-3 hours before training to have enough time for digestion and to avoid stomach discomfort.

Since you’d have more time for digestion, you can pair cream cheese with a complex carb (e.g., whole-grain toast or yams) for a steadier energy release and some protein like chicken. 

Can You Eat Cream Cheese After Workouts?

After training, you can have some cream cheese, but be careful with the serving. 

Fats take longer to digest, which means glucose and amino acids may hit your bloodstream more slowly, hindering the recovery process to a small degree.

Speaking of glucose and amino acids, protein and carbs are the two most important nutrients after training. 

Research recommends having at least 0.3 grams of carbs and 0.3-0.5 grams of protein following a workout to replenish lost glycogen (the complex carb form stored in your muscles and liver) and prevent muscle breakdown.

Excellent carb sources to enjoy after training include potatoes, rice, oats, fruits, and rice cakes. Quality protein foods include fish, meat, egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, and whey protein.

You can add a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese for extra calories.

Is Cream Cheese Good For Muscle Growth?

Cream cheese can help with muscle growth by adding more calories to your diet since a calorie surplus is necessary for optimal growth

However, it alone is not enough since it lacks carbs (the preferred fuel source for your body) and protein (the building block for muscle).

Tips For Incorporating Cream Cheese Into A Bodybuilding Diet

tips for incorporating cream cheese into a bodybuilding diet

Measure The Portion Size

Since cream cheese is very energy-dense, measure the portion size. 

Whether you are bulking or cutting, you need to know how many grams you are having to avoid consuming more calories than you need.

You may be able to enjoy a bit more cream cheese during a bulking phase since you’ll have extra calories and fats to work with.

Opt for The Reduced-Fat Option

You can opt for reduced-fat cream cheese if you are trying to reduce your fat intake. 

However, you must still look at the nutritional label, as the calories may not always be lower. Many low-fat foods (including cream cheese) make up by having more carbs.

Add a Protein 

Cream cheese only has fats. That is why it is important to add a protein source when you have it. 

You can add some salmon, chicken, or fish to increase your daily protein intake. 

Make a Dip

Besides having cream cheese and spreading it on some bagels, you can create a healthy dip with it. 

Mix some cream cheese, Greek yogurt, or any spice or flavor, and you will get a creamy and healthy dip. 

Here is another option from nutritionist and registered dietitian Cynthia Sass:

“Season plain cream cheese with a touch of maple syrup, cinnamon, and freshly grated ginger as a dip for fresh fruit.”


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About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.

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